Spotlight on calf riding cruelty

Putting any animal through stress, and potentially fear and injury is wrong, especially when it’s in the name of so-called entertainment. While all rodeo events can cause distress to the animals made to perform, the case against rodeo is particularly strong when it comes to the brutal treatment of vulnerable young calves.

SAFE has produced a new video highlighting one event taking place at rodeos across New Zealand, calf riding, which involves a calf as young as 12-weeks old being forced into the ring with a child on their back. The calves are often clearly showing signs of distress and do not want to leave the enclosure called the bucking chute. As with adult horses and bulls, a flank strap is pulled tightly around the calf’s sensitive organs which makes them buck unnaturally when released from the chute. Spurs may also be used to encourage these baby animals to buck more vigorously.

If the child sits too far forward on the calf, the animal’s front legs can buckle so he or she collapses on the ground. According to New Zealand's weak rodeo regulations, this is not supposed to be allowed, but is regularly witnessed.

Previously sheep riding events, also called ‘mutton busting’, were held for younger children to participate in. However the latter were prohibited in the 2014 Rodeo Code because of the risk of injury to the sheep and concerns that sheep could overheat because of their woollen coats.

Calves also suffer in calf roping events where they are chased at high speed, wrenched to a halt with a choking rope around the neck, then thrown to the ground where their legs are tied together. A recent study concluded that calf roping causes an “acute stress response” in these young animals.

NAWAC, (the body who reviews animal treatment in NZ and formulates rules on animal welfare) in the Rodeo Code of Welfare, says is it best practice that calves are not used in rodeo events.

At the government level, Green Party policy in the run up to the election was for a complete ban on rodeo, with their animal welfare spokesperson Gareth Hughes saying recently, “Rodeo belongs in the history books, not in modern New Zealand.” Labour’s pre-election commitment was to “ban the use of animals under 12 months, flank straps, rope burning and the use of electronic prods.” Labour policy, when enacted, will mean an end to both calf riding and calf roping, as the first step towards a full ban on rodeo.

Please join us in showing our new government that urgent action on rodeo cruelty is needed.

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